The Houston offense played from behind all afternoon long then finally caught the hosting Chicago White Sox at 9-9 in the eighth on Jose Altuve's 22nd homer of the season only to watch Ryan Pressly allow a grand slam to James McCann as the Astros dropped their second straight to the ChiSox, 13-9.
Yes, McCann can
(c) Associated Press
It's been awhile since the Spacemen dropped two in a row, July 15-16 to be exact, which shows the club has been trending well now for awhile. There are sudden concerns about the bullpen after losing three of the past four against sub-.500 teams during what should have been the easy part of the schedule.
Next up is a four-game series in Oakland where the A's will look to get back into the AL West race and also solidify their claims to a wild card berth.
Rain washed out Monday's contest on Chicago's south side, scene of past horrors for the Houston squad (2005 World Series). In the hastily arranged Tuesday twinbill, Zack Greinke kept order in a 6-2 victory before the day took a menacing turn. Nightcap starter Gerrit Cole suffered discomfort in his right hamstring and couldn't pitch. Chris Devenski was rushed into starting and allowed three runs while the powerful bats were silenced by Ivan Nova in a complete-game four-hitter.
That led to Wednesday's meltdown before winging to the West Coast. Pressly and Roberto Osuna have both allowed costly homers on this trip and the rest of the pen has looked shaky as well. To get more innings, Houston sent down Joe Biagini to Round Rock on Wednesday and recalled reliever Cy Sneed who has looked acceptable in previous opportunities.
The offense continues to perform well. Michael Brantley added four hits (including two doubles) in the loss to raise his average to .328. Alex Bregman, rested through the doubleheader with a sore scapula that had been hit in Baltimore, responded with three RBIs. Yuli Gurriel stayed hot with three hits, including two homers to give him 25 on the year and raised his average to .306. Then there's Altuve who chipped in three hits and drove in a pair.
The bats must continue to percolate as the pen sorts itself out. Aaron Sanchez (5-14 but 2-0 with Houston) is slated to pitch the Thursday opener at the fabled O.no Coliseum against ex-Astro Mike Fiers (11-3). The first pitch will be at 9:07 pm Central time.
Justin Verlander (15-4) challenges newly-added Tanner Roark (7-8) in Friday's 9:07 pm Central time second game. Cole (14-5) is penciled to return on Saturday in a matchup with Chris Bassitt (8-5) in a 3:07 pm Central time duel. Cole, on Wednesday, claimed his hamstring issue was "not super serious" but time will tell how it feels this weekend.
Greinke (12-4, 2-0 with Houston) takes the 3:07 pm Central finale on Sunday as lefty Brett Anderson (10-8) opposes him. The 78-43 Astros take a bring a 9-1/2 game lead into Thursday against the 68-52 Athletics. Houston in 9-2 so far in the season series. Oakland is two games back of Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot.
Once the weekend is over, the Astros return to Houston to begin a four-game set against Detroit.
- Bob Hulsey